Few better appreciate the cachet and mystique surrounding gin than those who work with it on a nightly basis. Mixologists represent the steadfast core of gin’s constituency. To explain gin’s nearly universal appeal, aficionados point to its trim lightweight body, wafting aromatics and engaging flavors.
For cocktail expert Julie Reiner, proprietor of New York’s Clover Club, Flatiron Lounge and Lani Kai, gin is an irreplaceable asset. “I find most everything about it enthralling. Gin is the only spirit that we don’t drink straight. Its milieu is the cocktail where it absolutely shines to a degree no other spirit can match. In fact, many of the most popular drinks served in my lounges are gin-based libations from the late 19th century.”
Gin has no equal behind the bar. As evidence, more classic cocktails call for gin than any other spirit. Their proprietary recipes endow them with personalities as individually distinctive as DNA, which explains why no two smell or taste the same.
Enticing as well is that they’re a rarefied lot, an exclusive club with the fewest number of premium brands, making each a singular commodity representing a particular house style. For label-battered vodka drinkers, fewer choices might be a welcome break.
New Aromatic Gems
These are indeed heady days for gin. The resurgent popularity of the cocktail has prompted the release of new artisanal brands. Likewise, iconic Tanqueray and Beefeater have introduced snazzy new variations on their centuries-old themes. Which have what it takes to become backbar classics? Here’s our list of the most promising candidates.
- Beefeater 24 — Created by Beefeater’s master distiller, Desmond Payne, Beefeater 24 is distilled with a unique blend of 12 hand-selected botanicals, a mix that features grapefruit peel and Chinese green and Japanese sencha teas. The juniper and citrus marry seamlessly. (90 proof)
- Berry Bros. & Rudd No.3 — This classically structured London Dry Gin is comprised of pot-distilled spirits infused with six botanicals. It has a juniper-forward character, lively fresh fruit aromas and a dry crisp finish. (92 proof)
- Bluecoat — Handcrafted in Philadelphia, organic Bluecoat American Dry Gin is pot distilled from rye, wheat, barley and corn. The resulting spirit is infused with juniper, sweet orange peels and fresh citrus. In a break from style, the fruit notes and flavors take center stage. (94 proof)
- Bulldog — This ultra-premium gin from London is handcrafted in small copper pot stills from English grain and a blend of 12 aromatics. The mix includes dragon eye, a fruit from Southeast Asia long renown for its aphrodisiac properties. Surgically balanced. (80 proof)
- Cold River — Small-batch Cold River Gin is made in Freeport, Maine, from locally sourced potatoes and spring water from an underground aquifer. It has an oily textured body and balanced palate with juniper in the lead and zesty citrus and cardamom spice on the finish. (94 proof)
- Dry Fly — Produced at a small distillery in Spokane, Wash., Dry Fly Gin is a refreshing break from tradition. Its innovative recipe calls for such botanicals as lavender, mint, hops and dried Fuji apples. Its juniper is dialed back. (80 proof)
- Oxley — Dubbed a Classic Dry English Gin, Oxley is produced using a technique called cold distillation, in which the fresh flavors of its botanicals are captured without the use of heat. The result is a delicate spirit with an herbal, citrus and lightly spiced persona. (94 proof)
- Right Gin — Ultra-premium Right Gin from Sweden is crafted from column-distilled neutral spirits and a mix of eight botanicals that includes Sicilian bergamot and black pepper from Borneo. It has a citrus and herbal bouquet and a tantalizing dose of pepper on the finish. (80 proof)
- Sloane’s — Recently honored as the “Best in Show White Spirit” at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition, small-batch Sloane’s is handcrafted in The Netherlands with nine botanicals, each of which is distilled individually. The gin is velvety smooth, highly aromatic and juniper-forward. (80 proof)
- Whitley Neill — This small-batch spirit features exotic wild cape gooseberries and the tart, acidic fruit of the African Baobab tree, which tastes similar to oranges. It sports an herbal, citrusy and floral bouquet with the juniper taking a back seat. (84 proof)